The coach says: “Look around at your teammates. These are the people who are going to help you get through today’s workout.”
This opening gambit — delivered in a group huddle — is just one of many motivational moments you can expect in a Les Mills GRIT small-group training class at the gym. And while you may show up to a GRIT class looking for a good sweat session, there’s a good chance you’ll walk out with a new friend.
According to Melissa Cox, Les Mills U.S. National GRIT Trainer and Coach and Area Group X Manager for 24 Hour Fitness, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun and connect with your fellow participants and your coach during the 30-minute class — and not just by coincidence. Les Mills GRIT instructors are trained to set the scene for a different kind of workout experience.
The science of motivation builds community
Never heard of Les Mills GRIT? It’s a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) small-group program that lasts for 30 minutes. The focus can be on cardio, strength or plyometrics, depending on the day. The program is built upon science-backed methodology using simple functional movement patterns, which can be done at varying intensity levels depending on your fitness ability. You work at your maximum effort for just the right amount of time, with frequent recovery periods built in.
The team effort is what helps you work your hardest. There’s a lot going on to make you feel like you’re a part of something bigger, even if you can’t put your finger on it. That’s because Les Mills GRIT classes are led by coaches — not instructors — who have been trained extensively on the science of motivation. They know class participants’ names and give specific encouragement. They use inclusive words like “team,” “crew” and “gang” — as well as inclusive body language: they make eye contact and they get down to your level when you’re working low to the ground. They will encourage high-fiving with your neighbor after a tough set. And they are highly skilled at scanning a room to see who needs help and when.
“The coach is there to provide a safe atmosphere so you can push out of your comfort zone.”
“They are very well-trained and will give you more attention than in a regular class,” she said.
Instead of teaching to the front of the room and giving general recommendations and cues, the coach in a Les Mills GRIT class will follow a quick demo by walking the floor through each section of work, checking in on participants and calling out those who are working super hard as an example to the class: “Just look at Justin’s tuck jumps — can you get the height he gets?” Sometimes the coach will even get into the action and do the move next to a participant to push him or her farther — “I’m here with you, Amanda, let me see if I can keep up with your burpees.” Yet, at the same time, the coach is also offering modifications for those who need it, such as performing a movement without weight to achieve better form.
Coupled with attention to the class as a whole, the coach helps bring the group together through these individual interactions. According to Cox, you may find that when you see the coach working with others, you can feed off that energy in your own workout. You know you’re not doing it alone.
Work at your own pace and level, advance as a team
In addition to tapping the science of motivational coaching, the class format and training for coaches draws upon the Get Fit Together study, conducted by Dr. Jinger Gottschall at Pennsylvania State University, which showed that when people work out with others, they end up achieving more than they would on their own — and that slowly building people’s confidence levels can be a key to success.
Although it sounds intense, Les Mills GRIT is open to people of all fitness abilities. “Every coach is trained to teach and to push everyone in the room at their own level — from the person who can’t get down onto the floor, to the person who can jump over your head,” says Cox.
She adds, “The beauty of Les Mills GRIT is that it’s easy to catch onto the moves, which can be very motivating. It helps you to get fitter faster… together.”
The class is designed so that modifications can be offered for almost every exercise, and the coaches are also trained to offer challenges to enable participants to achieve their personal best as well. “What may surprise you is that in addition to seeing your own progress when you attend class regularly, you’ll also start to see the progress of those around you,” says Cox.
As a seasoned coach, Cox has seen many participants come out of their shells, in addition to working toward their fitness goals. She speaks of one particular older woman who shyly started in the back of her Les Mills GRIT class one year ago. At the beginning, this woman couldn’t get down onto the ground to do push-ups. She used the bar all by itself instead of putting on weights. And she couldn’t do any moves on the platform/step. One year later, in addition to losing quite a bit of weight, this woman sets up in the middle of the classroom, talks to her fellow participants and can even jump onto a low riser with confidence. Perhaps more noteworthy to those around her, she smiles, interacts and no longer tries to hide.
Start as a team, end as a team
At the end of a typical Les Mills GRIT class, you may find that your coach calls everyone to the center of the room for a closing thought. “Congratulations. You rocked it. You are stronger than you were 30 minutes ago.” Then, everyone is encouraged to put their hands in for one last high-five. That’s when you get the chance to look around at smiling, sweaty faces and soak up a moment of being part of a fitness community — a fitness team.
Les Mills GRIT is offered at more than 180 24 Hour Fitness locations throughout the U.S. Find a class today.
“What may surprise you is that in addition to seeing your own progress when you attend class regularly, you’ll also start to see the progress of those around you.”